By Hemanth Kissoon
“I told you, love brings bad luck,” Fatima to her son Sami.
In an unnamed location in the Arab world the tide is trying to turn. The political Spring that has heartened much of the world, is mirrored here – the word though given a water-based analogy. The timing of the release makes me wonder when this was written. Coincidence? Either way, I find the cinema of railing against small-mindedness and oppression very satisfying. It is about time the plight of too many women relegated to second class citizens in the Middle East be tackled with eyes both on entertaining as well as giving a face. Some may complain that THE SOURCE is too slick; I however do not find it as such. The focus is Leila (Leïla Bekhti), galvanising women in her impoverished (yet stunningly beautiful) village to strive to be treated as people and not as possessions. There is great difficulty in balancing harsh reality with a narrative that seeks to engender hope, without alienating a wide audience. Leila is not a simplistic heroine, and neither is her home life. I found the dynamics within her extended family particularly captivating.
THE SOURCE’s thrust is a desire by the female denizens for their unemployed men to build a pipe, to bring water from up a steep slope down to the centre of the community. The majority of women have miscarried at least one child while falling on the difficult terrain carrying buckets of water. The area seems like paradise, but virtually nobody seems to be enjoying the landscape idyll. Female standing in society is precarious, while persistent drought has harmed the economy, crushing male self-esteem. A plethora of characters represent different viewpoints, and don’t actually feel like just philosophical representations.
Like CHOCOLAT and POLLYANNA, this is hardly devoid of sentiment; I didn’t mind on this occasion. Sensual, uplifting and charismatic.